Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, participated in a web chat about the RIAA’s new Anti-Piracy Campaign on US university campuses — sending pre-litigation notices to digital natives accused of illegal activity on peer-to-peer networks, which the universities are asked to pass along to the students. The Berkman Center’s Lewis Hyde tossed in a question. Here’s Lewis’s question:
“The recording industry regularly asks colleges to police their students in regard to infringement. Why is it the task of colleges to do this police work, rather than the police?
“Sharing files over the internet is not illegal per se; that depends on what’s in the file and on what it is being used for. An accusation of music piracy is not a proof of music piracy: questions of evidence, and of fair use, and of educational exceptions to infringement come into play.
“If colleges ‘pass along messages’ that direct students to ‘pay lump sums to record companies,’ colleges become an arm of the recording industry, bypassing their educational role (teaching about fair use, for example) and bypassing legal due process, if in fact there is a criminal charge to be made.
“For these reasons I believe that colleges should decline this RIAA request. How would Mr. Sherman respond to the background assumption here, that the industry, the colleges, and law enforcement are distinct institutions, and that there is good reason to keep their separate roles clear?”
Go here for Mr. Sherman’s response.